Natasha Murphy ::: web developer ::: Atlanta
My first 50 Coffees meeting was not in fact over coffee, but rather over Thai food. During some random internet surfing,, I came across Nicely Built, a company that designs and builds websites.. The site is beautiful as are the two gals behind it: Natasha Murphy and Corbin Baker who split their time between Athens & Atlanta, Georgia. As I had not met Natasha before, I prepared some questions but I also had an inkling that we would have a lot in common and would not be lost for things to talk about. Indeed, my assumption was correct. She went to the University of Georgia (as did I), started coding on her own (me too), and got a masters degree in non-profit management. She later worked as a developer for 2 advertising agencies before launching Nicely Built as a freelance business. Over some scrumptious Pad Thai, I soaked up these morsels of truth.
Freelancing is awesome & scary, but mostly awesome.
No one can really argue that being your own boss is pretty great. But the pitfalls of freelancing have also been well documented: lack of steady income, how hard it is to be self-disciplined, and building a client base from scratch. Natasha advised saving for your first 6 months as a full-time freelancer since you can never predict how much will come in. But she was quick to re-emphasize that yes indeed, freelance life is mostly awesome. The proof? She never sets an alarm. Music to my I'm Really Not a Morning Person ears!
Let your business grow organically.
Nicely Built grew its client base entirely through word of mouth. Our mutual friend & my constant inspiration, Paige French, once advised me to build my portfolio strictly with work that I am in love with because the outside world will not know or care whether I was paid or not. Natasha took this a step further: you will be hired to do work that is similar to your previous work. So don't take assignments you don't like if you don't want to rinse and repeat.
Forget comps, Long Live Rapid Prototyping!
If you're building a website, shouldn't the building of it happen on the web? Natasha explained that one of the first things she did differently in her own company was to stop making 'comps' or as Wikipedia puts it: "a comprehensive page layout of a proposed design as initially presented by the designer to a client, showing the relative positions of text and illustrations before the final content of those elements has been decided upon." Whew. Instead, she does all web design and development in the browser. The tech community calls this concept rapid prototyping. Ultimately, it allows you to set realistic expectations with your client about how fonts, colors, and layouts will look on the final product.
She is a #GirlBoss
Natasha is the definition of a GirlBoss. A self-proclaimed feminist, she approaches work in a quietly revolutionary manner: with a focus on cooperation, conversation, and transparency. She is, in her words, 'Zen.' I was surprised to learn that almost 80% of her client base is female. When I described my own dream of creating a Girl Squad full of wonderful women who make cool things, she smiled. That was already her reality. She works with Corbin (whose personal page is linked to her series of insanely awesome dance videos) at Nicely Built, but also works on a referral basis with those who specialize in graphic design or CMS platforms she doesn't support, like Squarespace.
In short, Natasha was the perfect first 50 Coffees participant: driven, creative, full of great advice, and someone I'd really like to get coffee with next time!